Trade: EU moves ahead with dispute settlement over workers’ rights in Republic of Korea


The EU yesterday requested a panel to address its long-standing concerns on labour standards in Korea. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “The EU-Korea trade agreement has produced large economic gains for both sides. Trade needs however to go hand in hand with workers’ rights. We agreed on that when we put the agreement in place in 2011. Despite some steps in the right direction, nine years later Korea has still not delivered on its commitments. Therefore, at this stage, we see no alternative than to ask for a panel, while of course remaining open to further dialogue to find a mutually agreed solution. This move shows the importance that the EU attaches to sustainable development in our trade agreements.”The commitments under the trade agreement include the ratification and effective implementation of a number of fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as setting domestic legal guarantees on the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The EU considers that the actions taken by Korea to implement this part of the agreement remain insufficient. This second phase of an arbitration procedure under the EU-Korea trade agreement is being triggered after formal government consultations held in January 2019 and more recent efforts failed to provide a satisfactory solution. During panel proceedings, the Commission will remain open to continue looking for a mutually agreed solution to the dispute. For more information, see the full announcement available online, a page on trade and sustainable development and the EU-Korea trade relations.